Hi Mike and Karen,
It is true the natives in Jamaica are on the agressive side, just a simple "no" should do it. I actually don't even answer them if they are persistant, all they have to do is ask once, I can't tolerate that kind of behavior, but have not had any major problems, just stick with an excursion there and you should be OK too.
I wouldn't worry about Ochos Rios. My best friend and I went there last year and we had a great time. We are 2 single girls in our late 20's and had no problems and I would think we would be prime targets for trouble. We firmly said "No" when offered drugs and were left alone. Just remember to keep your head on straight and you'll be fine.
In fact My boyfriend and I will be spending a week in Jamaica this Nov for my birthday.
Sorry, can't compare, haven't been to either of those places. Also noticed the merchants in the area of Labadee where they sell their wares were also quite pushy to say the least. For myself I'm more apt to purchase something without them pressuring me, thats a big turn off and I just leave at that point. Hopefully, you will have no problems, just say politely "no" and that should do it, good luck.
We were told that it was not safe to leave the shopping area where our tour driver took us. We were pressured to enter each shop, to take pictures etc. I didn't enjoy that, but when we said "No" and kept walking they didn't persist. We found that the better the quality of a store's merchandise, the less pressure applied. In spite of my husband's objections, I did take one photo of a woman dressed in native costume. I'm glad I did, because it reminds me of the sights we saw on our trip.
Jamaican vendors, cab drivers etc can be, and usually are, overlly aggressive and this can certainly be annoying at best and frightening to the more timid tourist. Although you are not usually in any physical danger, having someone follow you or getting in your face is not pleasant. In most populated tourist areas you may find this annoying , but that's about it. Outside the populated tourist areas is another story altogether.
Jamaica is a beautiful island and 99% of her population are wonderful folks. There is
an element that prays on tourists and things can and have gotten out of control at times. Use caution, stay in groups (preferably within organized tours), don't stray outside populated tourist areas and watch out for your belongings. Don't let these warnings deter you from enjoying this beautiful island and the overwhelming majority of her people.Use comon sense and you will experience a wonderful place.